High School Sports

Signed prospects want uncommitted recruits to become their college teammates

Gary Trent Jr. was sought after by many of the nation’s top college basketball programs, so he knows a thing or two about the recruiting process. The No. 10 prospect in the country according to 247Sports Composite rankings, Trent averaged 29 points per game as a senior for Prolific Prep Academy in Napa, Calif. After committing to Duke last November, coaches stopped calling him, but instead he was asked to pick up the phone. As a top signed prospect, Trent had to start convincing other players to join him in Durham.

In late March at the McDonald’s All-America game, Trent and fellow Blue Devil-commit Wendell Carter, Jr. continued their work in wooing some of the nation’s top unsigned players. That includes three players that join both Trent and Carter in the composite top 10 rankings of the Class of 2017.

“Duke’s a great school, I love everything about it,” Trent said. “There’s no more I can educate them on that they don’t already know. When you say Duke, it opens some eyes. It has a long tradition behind it. Everything about it is great for me, so I try to harp that to the guys and hopefully they come to their senses as well, like I did.”

Among the players the Blue Devils are targeting is Tampa shooting guard Kevin Knox, 247’s eighth-ranked player in the class. Knox – who scored 15 points in the March 29 McDonald’s game – is anticipating making his college choice in mid-April, during his high school’s spring break. Along with Duke, Knox’s list includes North Carolina, Kentucky and Florida State; he said Missouri is also in consideration now that the Tigers have signed the nation’s No. 2 prospect, Michael Porter, Jr.

In Chicago, Trent and Carter were both in Knox’s ear often, pitching him on the positives of committing to the Blue Devils. They weren’t the only ones. The four Kentucky commits playing in the game also gave their best arguments to Knox, as did Porter on behalf of Missouri. However nobody here was pleading with him to play for the Tar Heels. None of the All-Americans signed with North Carolina, a fact that was not lost on Knox.

“I just look at all the different aspects to each school,” Knox said. “I sit down with my family and just talk about the playing style, the coaching, who’s coming, who’s staying, who’s leaving.

“North Carolina is more of a point guard and big school, they don’t really get a lot of wings like me. I know Justin Jackson is there this year. So they really want me to come in. A lot of people say they don’t get a lot of one-and- dones, but Roy (Williams) said he wants me to change that,” the shooting guard added.

Many of the top uncommitted recruits echoed Knox’s feelings that they are waiting until current college players either declare for the NBA draft or opt to stay in school. That includes two other Duke targets, center Mohamed Bamba (ranked third overall by 247 Sports) and point guard Trevon Duval (fifth overall). Bamba, who had 17 points and four blocks in the McDonald’s game, is choosing between the Blue Devils, Kentucky, Michigan and Texas.

Duval’s finalists are Duke, Arizona, Baylor, Kansas and Seton Hall.

Along with seeing which players are going pro, some uncommitted prospects must evaluate coaching changes. Small forward Brian Bowen – ranked 15th nationally by 247Sports – has N.C. State as one of his final five schools, along with Arizona, Creighton, Michigan State and Texas. Bowen formed a close bond with Mark Gottfried, but when the Wolfpack fired the coach, things changed. He has yet to hear from the Wolfpack’s new coach Kevin Keatts, causing the school to drop in his mind.

“I love Coach Gottfried, he’s been recruiting me for a while,” said Bowen, who plans to make his college choice sometime this month. “Their assistants have been talking to me, so it’s a little bit up in the air.”

Until he and the other uncommitted players make up their minds, signed prospects are going to continue to do their best in recruiting them.